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Reid Travis steps up early, propels cold-shooting Cats to victory

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When the young perimeter players could not get it done, Travis “old-manned” the Jayhawks to carry the load.

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When the Kansas Jayhawks came into Rupp Arena on Saturday, everyone knew it would be a battle.

Whether they were rattled or just not on early, Kentucky’s back court players could not get their shots to fall early.

Thankfully, Reid Travis decided to take over and lead the Wildcats to their biggest win of the season.

Travis dominated the glass early, alongside PJ Washington, who did his part as well. Travis had 12 of Kentucky’s 30 points in the first half. He also pulled down six of his 12 rebounds in the opening period, with four of those coming on the offensive end.

“It was huge. He couldn’t be stopped down low, and we just tried to feed him the ball every time, and he was either getting fouled or making a basket,” said Washington of Travis’ first-half performance. “So, we just kept feeding him and he just kept giving us points.”

Travis did whatever he wanted in the pain, getting multiple and-one opportunities and scoring 18 points vital points for the Wildcats.

“It felt good,” Travis said of arguably his best game as a Wildcat. “At the start of the game, had a few that didn’t go my way, kind of went in and out. But as far as the game went along, I felt like I was able to get a rhythm and kind of see how they were defending me, and just go up a little stronger. It was a good day as far as that.”

Many of his points came on second-chance attempts that followed his seven offensive rebounds on the night. Four of those points came from free throws, several of which came after a foul.

“For me, I know it’s going to be a long game or it’s going to give a lot of opportunities to start the game to try and get a feel for how he’s going to guard,” he said. “You never know if they’re going to double the post and how aggressive he’s going to be, so I think he was kind of walling up and giving me more looks.

“So, I rushed a few at the start and kind of missed those, but as the game settled in, I had to just kind of take my time and understand that they weren’t really trying to prowl us, so just go up stronger. I feel like that’s how I got in the groove of it.”

Travis seemed unstoppable in non-conference play, but has been bothered by the length of SEC big men in recent weeks. Without Udoka Azubuike in Kansas’ lineup, there was no answer in the paint for the fifth year senior.

Going into March, the Wildcats are going to need Travis to be able to take over a game or two. He does not need to be the best player for Kentucky, and honestly they are probably in trouble if he is. But there will be stretches where they need him to carry the load. He showed on Saturday that he has the ability to answer the call when the perimeter shots are not falling.

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